Saudi Arabia hosts US evangelists, says Khashoggi was an Islamist
02 November 2018
Days after it came to light that the killing of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi was a pre meditated murder, possibly with the knowledge of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the latter held a rare meeting with American evangelical Christians to cool US anger.
Obviously, the Crown Prince’s meeting with a delegation led by communications strategist Joel Rosenberg and consisting of former US congresswoman Michele Bachmann, was intended to cool US anger and repair an image of religious intolerance.
Reports quoting an emailed statement from the group, as well as heads of American evangelical organisations, said some members of the delegation had ties with Israel.
"It was a historic moment for the Saudi crown prince to openly welcome evangelical Christian leaders to the palace. We were encouraged by the candour of the two-hour conversation with him today," the report quoted from the statement.
The delegation also met Saudi officials, including foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi ambassador to Washington Prince Khalid bin Salman, and secretary-general of the Muslim World League Mohammed al-Issa.
A visit by such prominent non-Muslim leaders, who estimate they represent about 60 million people, is a rare act of religious openness for
For Saudi Arabia, which hosts the holiest sites in Islam and bans the practice of other religions, the hosting of evangelist Christians and Israeli supporters is a rare act, forced by circumstances.
Some of the figures' support for Israel, which the kingdom does not recognise, is also striking. For instance, Mike Evans, founder of the Jerusalem Prayer Team, describes himself on his website as "a devout American-Christian Zionist leader".
While Saudi Arabia has long maintained that normalising relations with Israel hinges on its withdrawal from Arab lands captured in the 1967 Middle East war, increased tension between Tehran and Riyadh could draw Riyad closer to Tel Aviv against the common threat of Iran, that is what the United States also seems to believe.
Crown prince Bin Salman, who in recent years loosened strict social rules and arrested Saudi clerics deemed "extremists", said in April that Israelis are entitled to live peacefully on their own land. A month earlier, Saudi Arabia opened its air space for the first time to a commercial flight to Israel.
During the call with President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and National Security Advisor John Bolton, Prince Mohammed said Khashoggi had been a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a transnational Islamist organisation, the Washington Post reported.
Bin Salman had told the US he considered murdered writer Jamal Khashoggi to be a dangerous Islamist, according to media reports.
Prince Mohammed reportedly said this in a phone call with the White House after Khashoggi disappeared but before Saudi Arabia admitted killing him. Saudi Arabia has denied the reports in the Washington Post and New York Times.
Khashoggi, a Saudi national working for the US press, was a well-known critic of his home country's rulers. His body has not yet been found, but Turkey, the US and Saudi Arabia have all agreed that he was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.
Saudi Arabia denies its royal family was involved and says it is "determined to find out all the facts".